With the jobs market the way it is, your CV is often the first and only impression you get to make on a potential employer, so make sure it’s a good one. A good CV lifts you out of the pile of applicants for each job and shows your future boss that you’ve got what it takes.
There are many sites that will provide you with free CV templates. Avoid all of them. You need to tailor your CV to suit your own needs, not simply fill in the blanks on someone else’s effort. Make sure your CV contains only the information that is relevant to you and your career. This will help make it look professional.
Laying Out Your CV
While CVs don’t have a set format, it is important to make everything as clear and concise as possible, as you have a lot of information to fit into a relatively small space. Start by using a font that is clear and looks professional, like Helvetica or Arial.
Use the same font all the way through the CV, for both headers and body text. This prevents the CV looking crowded and maintains the professional look.
A size 10 font is best for the main body of the text but for section headers, use a size 12 font in bold. When highlighting information (sometimes this is necessary but most people will not need to highlight), always use italics. Never underline, leave that option open for potential employers who want to highlight or make notes before an interview.
What to Include on Your CV
You will need several sections to your CV:
- Personal details (name, address, contact details)
- Education (most recent first)
- Other qualifications (certificates, first aid training, etc)
- Employment history (most recent first)
- Non-vocational activities (local volunteering, neighbourhood watch involvement, etc)
Always start each section with an appropriate header and never split sections over multiple pages.
Before you add your references, it is a good idea to discuss what you do outside of work (both paid and non-vocational). This section is usually called “Other Achievements and Interests” or something similar.
List your hobbies here and projects you have worked on, but only if the projects were completed. Never list uncompleted projects as it looks like you can start something but not finish it.
The perfect CV length
Your CV is there to detail your education and past work experience. However, as the ideal work CV is no longer than 2 sides of A4 paper, you may need to leave some work out. This is why it is important to tailor your CV to the job you are applying for.
For example, if you had a lot of jobs in the past and you are applying for one that requires supervisory experience, feel free to leave out all those temp jobs you did over the summer between college and university (unless some of them gave you relevant experience, in which case you can include those).
Academic CVs can be longer than 2 sides of A4 but only if this is necessary in order to include a full list of the papers you have published.
Making Your CV The Best It Can Be
Once you have finished writing your CV, run a spell and grammar check on it. It doesn’t matter how brilliant your education and employment history is, a CV with spelling mistakes on it makes a bad first impression. All modern word processors come with a built-in spell checker so use it before you save your file.
Once you have saved your CV, get someone else to read over it. Listen to any comments they have to make, especially the negative comments. Try to fix any problems they spot because if your friends can see a fault, so will any employer you send it to.
Once you have addressed the problems, run the spell check again, then save the CV. Keep coming back to it to make updates, fix any problems that you later find and tighten your writing. This way you know your CV is always the best you can make it.
Good luck and happy job hunting!